(supplemental first-person material to
“Gold in the Hills: The Alton Krause Family Story”)
We were living in Leesburg in the old one room schoolhouse. It was spring of our second year in Idaho. School let out the middle of May and the snow wasn’t melted from the Ridge Road enough for us to get to the top of the mountain, so we were mining in Leesburg for a while.
Tom and Docie were to come down to Leesburg from Moose Creek which was another road to get there but one that you could only use with a jeep. They had a jeep wagon. This road didn’t go to their cabin. They had to backtrack on the Ridge Road and go further over the mountain on Moose Creek Road and around to Leesburg. I don’t know why they were coming–maybe to let us know if the roads were open. But they didn’t show up. After a couple days the folks were getting worried about them and Dad decided we should hike up to their place and check to see if they were ok. That was a hike of about seven miles and whatever distance down in the woods they were. And the same distance home.
He wanted volunteers for the trip and volunteers were in short demand. Actually, volunteers for that trip meant only Debby and me. The other kids were too little. Deb wouldn’t go. So there was only one volunteer left. I was delighted to go because at that time I hadn’t had a chance to go anywhere with Dad when it was just us and I was still a dumb kid. What did I know? Dad outfitted 2 back packs, the army surplus store variety. He put in whatever he thought we would need plus some food in case Tom’s had been stranded very long and needed it. We took whatever we had that was warm to wear and took off. The first 3 miles up the Old Leesburg Trail road were good. Then we hit the snow. Some of it was only about up to Dad’s knees but his knees were higher up than mine were. Some of it was higher. So he said he’d go first and break trail for me. I’ve always had a long stride when I walk. My friends used to complain about that. But I learned it in order to keep up with Dad. He was breaking trail but I couldn’t reach his footprints. So I whined and he started walking shorter. I didn’t think we’d ever reach the end of that snowdrift. And then we’d have a little ways of clear road and another snow drift.
Finally we got to the head of Tom and Docie’s road leading to their cabin. Sure enough, part way down the road was their jeep stuck in a snowdrift and with a flat tire. We had no idea where exactly their cabin was so we just continued down the road. And finally we got there. They didn’t really have a cabin. They had a half cave dug out of the bank and a bit of a roof over it with some canvas pieces on the open end to make it sort of like a tent there. But it was close to their diggings so they didn’t have to walk far.
We–meaning Dad, Deb, Butch and I–went over one summer and built them a real nice cabin. It had windows and a door. One window slid open for air. One summer Tom slid it open and shot a deer that was behind the cabin. Dad told us when we were with them and saw a deer we weren’t to say anything about it because he didn’t want Tom to shoot them all. Anyway, we kids made a sign for over the cabin door that said, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” But truthfully we made the cabin for Docie. But we couldn’t think of any book that used her name. When we reached the “dugout”, Tom said he had hoped we would show up. He had hurt his arm somehow in trying to get the jeep loose. Nothing serious, but he thought they’d wait a few days before trying it again. The jeep had a winch on the front but that’s not a great help when you are nose in to a tree. Tom and Dad went back to see what they could do to get the jeep loose and Dad changed the tire. I helped Docie to fix lunch. All I remember about lunch is that we had sourdough biscuits and pork and beans. It was the best food I ever had. I told Dad that and he said it was just that I was really hungry. Whatever the reason, it was the best food I ever had.
After Dad got the jeep loose, Tom told us that we should go back to Leesburg the back way because it’s shorter. That is to follow the trail down through their claims and keep following it until we’d finally reach Devlin Falls above Leesburg and then we could follow the road that went from Grantsville to Leesburg at one time. (Grantsville was gone.) These towns were settled by veterans of the Civil War. So off we went. The forest service used to have guys on horses or mules who kept the trails open and marked them by blazing a tree. And we were doing pretty good and really enjoying the new territory. Then it started to rain a little. Then a little more. Then the gully washer started and it contained hail which bounced off my ears because I just wore a cap and my ears stuck out. We were drenched through. Finally Dad decided we should shelter under a big tree. I didn’t think that was good because I’d heard that lightening hits big trees. But he said it was either that or drown. And I could see the point. So we did that until it calmed down a little. Somehow, in the heavy rain we lost the trail. But Dad said that it had to go downhill and we should just keep walking down hill. And eventually we found it again.
When we got back to Leesburg Mother had a fit about me being drenched. Dad was drenched too but she seemed to think he deserved it. How could he know it would rain like that? But she chased Butch and Dad out of the cabin since it was only one room and had me get in a rinse tub where she poured hot water over me. When I was thawed out she let Dad come in and have a hot rinse tub bath too. I think we girls just turned our backs for that one. Besides those being the best biscuits and beans I ever ate that was one of the best times I had in the mountains because it was an adventure. If I could go back and do it again I would. And that just proves what Butch used to tell me about why we Krauses aren’t all rocket scientists.
Transcribed by Larry Pearce: 3/1/17